“MARKET GAINS PUMP CEO PAY – Corporate chiefs pull in $50 million or more” – USA Today, 3/21/13
“Last year I attended a Thanksgiving dinner at Harris Elementary School…in Decatur (IL), where I learned that 92 percent of the kids are on free or reduced-cost lunches.” —Howard G. Buffett, leading advocate for U.S. and global hunger relief and son of Warren Buffett, USA Today, 12/2/12
Corporate CEO’s take home tens of millions of dollars a year and the children of working families in the heartland of America need food assistance. This jolting disparity speaks volumes about the economic and social condition of our nation. Left unchecked, the growing income gap between the wealthy and working families will result in greater and greater human hardship that will keep tearing at the social fabric of our country.
Income inequality is not simply the product of free market forces, as apologists in the corporate boardrooms would have us believe, or the result of an inferior and undeserving workforce, as right-wing, multimillionaire media personalities contend.
In fact, the enormous income inequality we are experiencing is largely derived from three developments: 30 years of federal tax policies that are severely skewed to benefit the wealthiest individuals and largest multinational corporations; low-wage economic policies; and a relentless and coordinated attack on the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively perpetrated by the hard core anti-union element of corporate America led and funded by the National Right to Work (For Less) Committee and far-right billionaire industrialists such as the Koch brothers.
While corporate profits and executive compensation have reached exorbitant levels, incomes for working families have not nearly kept pace. A low-wage economic strategy with “free trade” agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA as its centerpiece has helped stunt wage growth as U.S. corporations have pitted workers in low-wage countries against American workers, primarily organized industrial workers. The BCTGM has experienced this situation time and time again in our industries.
At the same time, union-busting consultants have been taking full advantage of pathetically weak federal labor laws and an understaffed and underfunded National Labor Relations Board to intimidate, harass and coerce workers on behalf of their corporate clients. This has created an environment in which organizing through the Board process is more difficult than at any time since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.
On top of this, these same anti-union forces have come together in states across the country spending tens of millions of dollars to enact “right-to-work for less” laws and laws limiting collective bargaining with the goal of depriving workers of the ability to improve their economic standing.
This decades-long assault on labor has led to a precipitous decline in union density and in turn a decline in the power of unions to raise wages and living standards for members and non-members alike. There is another course that offers a future with greater prosperity for more Americans.
Labor’s plan calls for discarding the failed low-wage strategy that has been pounding working families for far too long and replacing it with a high-wage strategy that: puts people back to work through massive public investment in education, new technology and infrastructure improvements; restructures the federal tax code so that the wealthiest pay their fair share, corporations are not rewarded for shipping good jobs overseas and working families are not left shouldering the tax burden; replaces “free trade” with “fair trade”; and restores workers’ ability to organize and bargain collectively by fundamentally reforming the nation’s labor laws.
The BCTGM is committed to being an active partner with the AFL-CIO and its affiliates and allies on this critical mission of creating an American economy that works for the middle class. We make this commitment for the well-being of our members and their families for generations to come.
– David B. Durkee, BCTGM Internatonal President